What the Indiana History Center Theater audience lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. Suzuki and Friends’ 24th season launched with a salute to Vienna, dominated by Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899). Four of the Viennese Waltz King’s pieces in three-quarter time were featured — as re-instrumented by Viennese 12-tone composers Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern.
Hidetaro Suzuki and Zeyda Ruga Suzuki performed in the Suzuki and Friends opening concert.
The first three waltzes used two violins (led by series co-founder Hidetaro Suzuki), a viola, a cello, a string bass, two bassoons, two clarinets and a piano — the latter played by the series’ other co-founder, Zeyda Ruga Suzuki. Waltzes from “Wine, Women and Song” began the program a bit tentatively, with a touch of raggedness and pitches occasionally off target. “Roses from the South” provided the second set, which saw our players better grooved, not to mention showcasing more familiar Strauss fare. Separating Strauss’ first two offerings, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra principal Karen Moratz joined Zeyda Suzuki for Schubert’s Introduction and Variations on “Trockne Blumen” for flute and piano, the song taken from his cycle Die Schöne Müllerin. In a routine performance, this 20-minute piece could have become tiring. But any time our town’s pre-eminent flutist and pianist team together, we can expect sparks: The Moratz-Suzuki team fashioned each note, each phrase, each variation into a thing of beauty and Schubertian depth. Following intermission, we heard the “Schatzwaltzer” (“Treasure Waltzes”) from Strauss’ operetta The Gypsy Baron. These proved to be yet more familiar turf to both audience and players, the latter delivering yet more rhythmic nuances and other elements of interpretive freedom — all to the good. A novelty which turned into a surprising delight, Anton Bruckner’s Adagio from his String Quintet in F (1879), came next. An Austrian native, Bruckner spent most of his life in Vienna writing big, hollow symphonies infused with enough lyric glue to have attracted a core of devoted followers. The quintet movement left out the “big” and the “hollow” while keeping the glue. Our string players reveled in the piece’s wistful charm. Strauss’ “Emperor Waltz” ended the program, with the two bassoons and two clarinets replaced by a single clarinet and flute — the latter again featuring Moratz. For this most regal of waltzes, the change in instrumental color moved in the right direction, producing a fiery finish to a sparkling season opener.